TOPEKA -- Topeka's Performing Arts Center is set to celebrate its 20th Anniversary beginning this week. TPAC, its staffers and trustees, will all receive recognition from Mayor Bill Bunten in a ceremony this Wednesday. Sponsors will also be recognized.
Among the highlights of the 20th Anniversary season are concerts Friday, April 1st with Kenny Rogers, and featuring Billy Dean. And the starring performer of TPAC's first show, Ben Vereen, will come back to perform on Saturday, April 23rd.
So how did this amazing performing arts center take shape?
In 1985 a task force of private citizens, with the support of Mayor Doug Wright and other City officials, pursued the possible renovation of the Municipal Auditorium into a performing arts facility because of the new Expocentre, which lacked a permanent stage.
In 1987, the task force presented a proposal for a $5 million renovation that would result in an auditorium suitable for Broadway touring companies, world-class orchestras, and major dance companies. A first-of-a-kind public/private partnership was formed, with the City funding $2.5 million, and the balance raised from corporations, foundations and individuals from within the community.
The highly successful capital campaign raised $5.7 million, led by the naming gift of $500,000 from Andrew J. and Georgia Neese Gray.
Renovation was completed in the spring of 1991 at a final cost of $6.25 million. The dream of a world-class performing arts facility for Topeka and Northeast Kansas with outstanding acoustics, easy access, comfortable surroundings and excellent sightlines became a reality as the new Topeka Performing Arts Center opened March 23, 1991, with “On Broadway” featuring Ben Vereen and Judy Kaye.
Enthusiastic crowds of 2,500 at each performance applauded both the performers and efforts of those visionary people who, with the support of the community, saw their dream become reality.